POSTED: June 7th 2013

IOC candidate Bach talks sports, bidding and TV for the Olympics

IOC Vice-President and gold medal fencer Thomas Bach / Olaf Kosinsky
IOC Vice-President and gold medal fencer Thomas Bach / Olaf Kosinsky

LAURA WALDEN / Sports Features Communications

(SFC) International Olympic Committee (IOC) presidency candidate Thomas Bach wants a more interactive Olympic movement and proposes changes to the sports programme, the bidding process and even wants to review the idea of a dedicated Olympic TV channel to boost viewership and reach out to the youth.

The IOC vice-president spoke to the press in a conference call from Berlin the day after the call to candidatures closed and the lobbying entered a new phase. There are six contenders for the head of the Olympic Movement as incumbent president, Dr. Jacques Rogge, steps down in three months’ time.

Olympic Sports

The 59 year old German lawyer and head of the German Olympic Committee (DOSB) remarked that as long as the limit of 10,500 athletes was respected for the Games, he feels that the Olympic programme should work a bit like a jigsaw puzzle, “All the pieces have to harmonise and fit together. You cannot just simply replace one piece or some pieces with others because you may destroy the harmony of the whole picture.

"Whenever we take a decision on the programme we have to know before and consider very carefully what this means to sustainability with regards to sports facilities - permanent or temporary.

"This is why I think we should definitely keep the limit on the number of athletes and we should establish a limit on the number of permanent facility.

"Within this framework then we could gain good flexibility with regards to the programme, look more at the disciplines rather than at sports as whole,” he added.

He also doesn’t feel like it is imperative to stick to the core 28 sports as the programme is now, but opens the door for more.

He clarified, "Whenever we take decisions on the Olympic programme we have to know before and consider what it means to sustainability with regard to sports facilities.

"We should definitely keep the limits on number of athletes and establish a limit on number of permanent facilities.

“With this framework we could gain good flexibility with regard to the programme. The number of sports, there we can be more flexible."

Interactive members

Bach already serves as IOC vice-president and said that should he be elected that he would like to call in the executive board for a week long brainstorming session to discuss these top issues and get input for change through the board.

He wants to change the sessions to be more reflective of a debate and tackle topics with a moderator, give the members more of a chance for interaction and give them more responsibility in the decision making process.

At the same time enhance the role of the commissions and make them more proactive.   

Olympic Bidding

Bach, who has also served on a few evaluation commissions overseeing Olympic bid assessments, wants to up the ante to make the Olympics more attractive for potential bidders.

"We must ensure that organising the Games is attractive and feasible for as many cities and countries as possible,” he noted. “We may have to reconsider our bidding procedure to make it more encouraging while ensuring operational excellence.

"The bidding process should be a real invitation for candidatures and show we embrace the different social, culture and political backgrounds.

"We embrace this diversity which would also be reflected in the organising of the Games. Therefore, we may have to see if our bidding procedure is not requesting too much too early.

"Maybe there is a way we can ensure the operational excellence while allowing for more creativity, more diversity in the approach to organising the Games.To make it clear that the standards from one part of the world alone are not applicable and that the Games have to reflect the diversity in our modern world," he concluded.

Olympic TV channel

A controversial idea, Bach wants to capitalize on the Olympic TV Production unit that already exists and create an Olympic TV channel for sports during the off time of the Games. It would offer a window for lesser known sports and target young people and their viewing and online practices. He was in charge of negotiating the European TV rights for the IOC and sees a need for a channel that would function in the non-Olympic years.

The IOC’s broadcast income is the largest of the pie with the 2013-2016 quadriennial bringing in over US$4 billion from the American network NBC and there are still areas that haven’t been sold. His rival in this presidential race, Puerto Rican financier, Richard Carrion, was the leader of that deal which was the highest the IOC has ever brokered for media rights.

Time back the US Olympic Committee considered setting up a channel however it never came to fruition as NBC and the IOC did not want a competitor to NBC’s already highly lucrative deal.

Bach explains, "This is a vision, this is nothing you can manage in one two three, in four or five years. But as our Chinese friends say every long journey starts with the first step and it is time to undertake this first step.

"We have already an Olympic TV production and we see that many Olympic sports do not appear enough across the world on TV. This is not a question about money, it is a question about addressing the youth.

"If it would be only about money and the Games the actual system works pretty well. We sell well our TV rights, we have excellent ratings all over the world so from this perspective there would not be the need for change."

Very interesting indeed. The IOC will elect their next leader on September 10, at the IOC session in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Keywords · Thomas Bach · IOC · Olympics · Olympic bidding · TV

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